Some thoughts and observations from the final the Cowboys mini-camp practice.
- The more I watch Ronald Leary play, the more I believe there is going to be a battle at that left guard spot for the position. There is no question of the ability of Leary to play with power and that is something you can tell without pads when he pass a twist stunt and knocks Kyle Wilber to the ground with a punch or he takes Jason Hatcher and stones him in his tracks on the rush. Leary looks like a completely different player than the one we saw last season. He looks more confident in what he has to accomplish assignment wise and to be quite honest if you talk to scouts around the league like I do the biggest questions about his play were the issues with the knee which appears to be giving him no problems because I have not seen him a day to rest it like with what we have seen with Nate Livings and how sharp he was mentally to pick up the offense. In my study of his work this Spring, I was seeing less and less of the adjustment problems to his assignments and carrying them out which really was his downfall during camp in 2012. The zone scheme appears to be a nice fit for a player that was a left tackle at Memphis. He is making quality reach and cut off blocks while also getting to the second level. In some of the short yardage plays, Bill Callahan has called his number on pulling plays to the right and Leary appears to have a feel for how to search his man and make contact. Not all of Leary's work has been perfect and along with Kevin Kowalski has given some nice reps at the guard spots while Livings and Bernadeau rest injuries before training camp. If Livings continues to have problems with that knee, Ronald Leary has put some good practices together working with Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith that makes me believe that he will get even more opportunities in Oxnard to try and win this job. It's not physical with him but the mental side that we need to pay attention to.
- Over the last several weeks, there was something that I always heard from the field when the tight ends were working with the quarterbacks and receivers and that was Jason Garrett urging Gavin Escobar to play faster. In this offense is about getting to your spot as quickly as possible or running your route to clear so that receivers might have the opportunity to operate in clean space. If you watch Escobar on tape from San Diego State, he wasn't always the most fleet afoot but on this final day, Escobar had one of his best practices because he was playing much quicker. His routes up the field or over the middle were run with some pace to them. It was like Escobar wasn't having to think what he was trying to do but just being what us scouts like to call a "Football Player". Escobar was a much smoother player today and not the one that I had seen have some lumbering qualities to his game. He was mentally sharp in the blitz period where he quickly recognized that Justin Durant was coming off the corner and adjusted his route to receive the ball "Hot" from Orton. In the "Play It Out" period, he ran a beautiful route up the field releasing to the outside, then broke inside to take the ball sliding along the end line from Nick Stephens for a touchdown. Later he was able to secure another touchdown by making a contested catch with Justin Durant on his back trying to keep him out of the end zone. For Escobar the question will never be about his hands and his ability to catch in them but learning how to play the game quicker both in his routes and in his blocking. Today was a step in the right direction by all accounts.
- I really do like the fit on the defensive with Justin Durant playing as the Sam linebacker in the mix with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. With Durant I feel like you get a smart player that has some of the similar traits of Lee and Carter in his ability to read quickly, then react. In just watching him moving around the field and how he manages to be in position, I feel like it shows a great deal about his football awareness to go along with his ability to be a physical player at the point of attack. There is a reason why he had over a 100 tackles last season for the Lions but what is surprising to me now is that they took him off the field in pass coverage situations because when he has been asked to play in coverage, he has done a dependable job whether he has dropped in zone or having to carry a tight end in man. I made mention earlier about his coverage against Gavin Escobar which was just an outstanding play to get the ball away from Durant but when the ball has gone to the flat like yesterday on the tight end screen to Jason Witten, he was right there to make the hit before the play had a chance to get going. With Durant, Alex Albright and DeVonte Holloman, you have three linebackers that can hold up against the run but are not a liability in coverage.
- A player that didn't start off the camp practices well but really picked it up the last couple of weeks was cornerback Sterling Moore. I found myself focusing more in guys like Carr, Claiborne, Scandrick and Webb but Moore has done a much better job of being in position to make plays where earlier, he was even in the same area code on these routes. There were too many times where he was turned and you could clearly see separation but in some practices last week and the three day camp this week, his technique was much tighter and his positioning on routes made it difficult for the quarterbacks to fit the ball inside on him. Earlier he was playing with poor foot quickness and he appeared to be slow reacting but this week he was on more balls and his game was overall better. Where Moore can help this team is when he has to play on the edge making sure that the ball goes inside to the linebackers and safeties. He understands how to play off blocks with his hand use and he does tackle well enough to keep plays from turning into large gains. Moore has been working opposite of Orlando Scandrick with the second defense on the left side and in the way the defensive coaches are playing him, he is the fourth corner ahead of B.W. Webb, who also had a nice three days. Earlier in the camp, I had big concerns in the way that Moore was playing but he now appears to have found himself again and will be ready for any role required of him.